Artist Resources: Oil Painting Mediums

There are numerous mediums for oils in the paint material industry.  So many in fact, that this list below holds only some of the most common.  Most lines of oil paint, although relatively simple in formula (compared to acrylic), use different oils for their recipes in order to create their standard paint lines.  So, each company has a range of mediums for their oil paints specifically.  I have listed most of the standard mediums as well as some brand specific mediums that tend to be favorites.

Linseed Oil -- Made by pressing flax seeds and lightly refined. Can be used in moderation to thin oil colors or as an ingredient in traditional painting mediums.

Cold Pressed Linseed Oil -- This is pressed from flaxseeds without the use of heat or solvents.  It is a higher acidity than alkali-refined linseed oil. Used as a medium with oil colors for thinning, lower gloss and transparency, and pronouncing brush marks.

Stand Oil -- A thick, honey-like linseed oil with excellent leveling properties. Increases flow, transparency, and gloss. Slower drying and less yellowing than other linseed oils, it creates a smooth, durable, and flexible film.

Refined Safflower Oil -- Safflower oil is expeller-pressed from safflower oilseeds. As it yellows less than linseed oil it is good for making pale oil colors. Safflower oil dries faster than poppy seed oil. Poppy seed, sunflower and safflower oil can be safely used to make oil colors, such as light or pale colors, but they are not recommended for use as a painting media and should not be expected to replace linseed oil because they have a weaker binder.

Poppy Oil -- naturally a slow drying oil; often used with lighter colors as it is a pale oil.

Clove Oil --Clove oil is made from the leaf of the plant by steam distillation. Add a drop to oil paint to slow down drying. Add to egg tempera, emulsions and glues to prevent mold and bacteria. 

Spike Oil -- Lavender Spike Oil is a natural, low-toxic substitute for turpentine. 

Walnut Oil -- Made from fresh dried walnuts,  cold-pressed and then lightly refined. It is a clear, pale yellow oil that is odorless. As a thin oil, it is used to make oil paint more fluid. As it yellows less than linseed oil (but more than safflower oil) it is good for making pale oil colors. Walnut oil dries more slowly than linseed oil, drying in four or five days. It is said to have a less tendency to crack than linseed oil, but this has not be verified by research.

Copal Medium -- for glazing, thinning and wet in wet techniques; it speeds drying and enhances flow

Damar --  Damar is the most popular natural resin for making spirit varnish. Add turpentine and you have golden clear concentrated dammar varnish. This is the most economical way to obtain dammar varnish. Dammar can be used as a varnish, a medium for gloss, encaustic medium or egg tempera medium.

Balsam Resin Medium -- Created from balsam resin, linseed and spike oil.  Adding to paint will increase gloss, glow, adhesion and fusion to previous layers.

Cobalt Drier -- A powerful medium that speeds the drying time of oils, meant to be used sparingly

Gamblin Solvent Free Gel -- a solvent free medium improving flow, gloss and transparency, with no solvent or petroleum distillates

Weber Turpenoid Gel -- fast drying medium increasing transparency and flexibility, drying to a matte finish.

Sennelier Van Eyck Gel -- This is a mastic-based medium that allows the artist to superimpose oil colors rapidly, even when paint is fresh, without diluting the underlying coats.  
It fixes brush strokes, giving them a varnished, enamel finish. It also increases gloss, transparency and depth of color.

Alkyd Mediums -- Made from a slow-drying pure alkyd resin with the consistency of a thick Stand Oil. Dries to a glossy, flexible, and enamel-like film. Useful in making other mediums or added directly into oil paints to modify transparency and flow.

Winsor Newton Liquin --This is a general purpose semi gloss medium which speeds drying, improves flow and reduces brush stroke retention, and resists yellowing.

Gamblin Galkyd -- Galkyd thins oil colors and increases transparency and gloss. When used in greater proportions with oil color, Galkyd will level brush-strokes, creating an enamel-like surface. Thin layers will be touch-dry in approximately 24 hours.

Wax Mediums -- Wax mediums are made with beeswax, damar resin and refined linseed oil, meant to thicken paint or finish a painting surface, able to be buffed to a satin sheen.

Much of this research has been taken from my favorite resources for oil painting:

  • Natural Pigments, which has loads of articles and is an online store for raw materials.  
  • Gamblin Artist Colors has quite a few videos of their mediums and great info on color theory, as well as wonderfully supportive technical staff.  
  • Williamsburg Oils makes great quality colors and has a strong technical website and knowledgeable staff.    
Keep Painting,

For more information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.